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Regardless of which feeding approach you choose, purees or baby led weaning, introducing iron rich foods from the start is extremely important. Here is a list of top foods and recipes for babies and toddlers.

four iron rich vegetable meals for babies, including spinach, swiss chard, peas
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Why is Iron so Important?

Iron is essential for producing red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. It’s also important for optimal brain development.

Iron is also one of the primary reasons that we start solid foods when we do. Babies are born with iron stores built up during their time in the womb. And this is why moms need to maintain a healthy iron status during pregnancy.

But by 6 months of age, it becomes depleted. At the same time, their iron needs increase drastically to support their rapid growth and development.

Inadequate iron intake in infanthood and childhood can lead to cognitive, including decreased attention and memory, as well as behavioral impairment, such as delayed attention, social withdrawal, and learning difficulties.

tired mom with baby food

Is your baby 6 months old and up?

Learn all the secrets to starting solids safely while optimizing nutrition!

How much iron does a baby and toddler need?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies 6-12 month olds need 11 mg of iron per day. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 need 7mg of iron per day.

While there’s so much focus on iron for babies, toddlers deserve the same degree of attention. Research shows that this age group have the lowest daily iron intake of any age group across the lifespan.

To give you context:

  • 3 ounces steak: 2.5 mg of iron
  • 1/4 cup cannellini beans: 2 mg
  • 1/2 of egg: .5 mg
  • 3 tablespoons fortified infant oat cereal: 5 mg
  • 3 ounces chicken liver: 9.9 mg
  • 3 ounces salmon: .8 mg
  • 1/4 cup cooked spinach: 2 mg
  • 2 ounces chickpea pasta: 3 mg
  • 1/4 cup raw tofu: 1.6 mg
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seeds: .32mg
  • 1/4 cup cooked lentils: 2 mg
  • 2 tbs peanut butter: .6 mg

Now please don’t start calculating and keeping track of how much your baby is getting daily. Nor stressing about what inhibits iron and what doesn’t.

This will just drive you crazy and lead to lots of anxieties and worries, especially if you are doing baby led weaning and following your baby’s lead.

And don’t worry! Your baby won’t need 11 mg of iron right away. It is not like once your baby hits 6 months, their iron reserve is completely depleted. It’s a gradual process.

What I encourage you to do, once again, is focus on including an iron-rich food at every meal! All those little bites will add up. And as they have more practice with eating, they will be able to meet their iron needs.

Top Iron-Rich Foods for Babies

Click on any of the links to learn exactly how to cook and serve the specific food to your baby!

Top Iron-Rich Foods for Toddlers and Kids

Given that toddlerhood is often associated with picky eating habits and selective eating, here are some fun and enjoyable ways to introduce iron-rich foods:

toddler pushing bowl away

Is your toddler becoming picky?

Arm yourself with these strategies that will transform your mealtimes!

Top Tips to help increase iron level

  1. Iron from animal products (heme iron) is absorbed better in the body.
  2. Be sure to combine plant-based iron (non-heme iron) with vitamin-C rich foods.
  3. It’s true that calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, but there’s no need to go out of your way to make sure you absolutely don’t serve calcium-containing foods with iron-rich foods. There are so many factors that affect iron absorption. Calcium is just one of them. What I do recommend is to not serve both at every single meal. . 
  4. For toddlers, don’t serve too much milk. It not only contains components that can inhibit the iron absorption but can be quite filling. As a result, they may eat less iron-rich foods.
  5. Choose fortified products, such as fortified infant cereal or bread.
  6. Use a cast iron pan: cooking foods in cast iron cookware may increase the iron content of meals by up to 16%

Best Vitamin C Rich foods

Iron-Rich Food Ideas for Vegetarian Babies and Toddlers

Again, ALWAYS pair non-heme iron sources with Vitamin C rich food. I can’t emphasize this enough!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do babies need an iron supplement?

As you can see, the recommended intake is really high relative to how much food they’re likely to eat. If you’ve decided to do baby led weaning, you may be especially concerned as not much food will actually make it into your baby’s belly during the first days, weeks of starting solids.

As long as you’re offering an iron-rich source at every meal along with breast milk and/or infant formula, your baby will likely continue to meet their needs as they wean.

However, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider, especially if your baby is not developmentally ready to start solids at around 6 months.

Routinely, hemoglobin levels are checked starting at 12 months, usually. But you can always ask to have it checked earlier and supplement accordingly.

What you don’t want to do is automatically supplement on your own as it can cause more harm than good, if not necessary. The same goes for toddlers. If they’ve become really fussy and rejects most or all iron-rich foods, then bring this up to your doctor.

Can babies get enough iron from a vegetarian diet?

It is true that Iron from heme found in animal sources is absorbed better than iron from non-heme or plant sources. There are also many compounds found in plant foods, such as phytates and tannins, that reduce iron absorption.

Therefore, the recommended dietary intake for iron for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for meat eaters.

Knowing this, If your family is a vegetarian, you may be concerned that your baby is at an even greater risk for iron deficiency.

However, the good news is there are so many great food sources, and with some planning, plant-based diets can be adequate in iron. Check out the tips section above.

Should infant rice cereal be a baby’s first food?

Perhaps you were recommended by your doctor, family, or friends to start with iron-fortified rice cereal. This is outdated advice. While it is suitable, your baby does NOT need to start with rice cereal.

It’s also high in arsenic, which you want to try to limit as much as possible. That’s not to say you shouldn’t give your baby rice at all, as it is a main staple in so many cultures, but you do want to be mindful.

Having said this, fortified infant cereal is a great option to help meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Look for ones made with whole grains, like oat, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat.

Iron Rich Breakfast for Babies and Toddlers

four variations to the basic quinoa cereal served on separate four pink bowls.
5 from 2 votes

Easy Quinoa Baby Cereal (4 Ways)

Making homemade baby cereal or porridge is SO easy and inexpensive! If you've only been serving rice or oat-based cereals, give this iron-rich quinoa version a try!
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four oatmeals shaped into balls and plated on a white plate
5 from 28 votes

Homemade Baby Oatmeal

Learn how to cook the perfect oatmeal for baby. It's easy, fast, and customizable! Serve as is or as a finger food, baby led weaning style.
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Three stacked bars.
4.96 from 43 votes

Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

These pumpkin oatmeal bars are high in protein and low in sugar. Moist and packed with the flavors of fall, enjoy them as a delicious no fuss breakfast or snack!
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A close up shot of stacked wraps with the top one rolled.
5 from 15 votes

Lentil Wraps

It's ridiculously easy to make high-protein, gluten-free, and vegan lentil wraps or tortillas at home! While you only need 2 ingredients, there are so many ways to customize the fillings and flavors.
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four carrot oatmeal cookies stacked
5 from 160 votes

3 Ingredient Baby Cookies

3 ingredients are all you need to make these soft and delicious vegan banana oatmeal cookies. They are the perfect breakfast or snack for babies!
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peanut butter banana oatmeal in a white mug with a toddler hand scooping with a spoon
5 from 33 votes

2 minute egg oatmeal

These microwave egg oatmeals for babies, toddlers, kids, (and adults!) are SUPER easy to make and come together in 2 minutes! Enjoy as a filling protein and fiber-rich breakfast or snack.
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three sliced baked oatmeal stacked on top of each other
5 from 15 votes

Savory Baked Oatmeal with Vegetables

This savory baked oatmeal is so easy to make and a great way to enjoy vegetables for breakfast! Perfect for baby led weaning and lunchboxes.
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a close up shot of the hummus in a white bowl with a spoon
4.75 from 4 votes

Pumpkin Seed Spinach Hummus

this spinach hummus with pumpkin seeds instead of tahini is a healthy snack or meal for babies and toddlers. It is so versatile and here are some ways to serve it to your family.
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five cooked muffins on a white plate
5 from 27 votes

Vegan vegetable quinoa muffins

Made with healthy ingredients like broccoli, carrots, and quinoa, these egg and dairy-free vegetable muffins with quinoa are perfect for baby led weaning and school lunchboxes.
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a toddler's hand dunking the chickpea cakes in pizza hummus
4.98 from 44 votes

Chickpea Patties (gluten free)

These flavorful chickpea patties with quinoa are easy to make with simple pantry staples. Shape them into patties or even nuggets
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a lunchbox with omelette strips, freeze dried strawberries, roasted orange and purple sweet potatoes.
5 from 28 votes

Vegetable Omelette

Nutritious and easy to make, this baby-friendly omelette made with whatever veggies you have on hand is the perfect breakfast/snack for babies and toddlers!
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three sweet potato cookies for babies stacked on a wooden board
4.99 from 69 votes

Healthy Sweet Potato Cookies

These super moist sweet potato cakes made with just 5 simple ingredients, including chickpeas, oats, and chia seeds, are perfect for babies and toddlers.
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beetroot muffins on a wire rack with a spoonful of peanut butter, chickpeas in a bowl, and uncooked beetroot
4.95 from 113 votes

Healthy Beet Muffins for Babies

Made entirely with healthy ingredients, like beans, peanut butter, and no added sugar, these beet muffins can be enjoyed as breakfast, snack, or added to lunchboxes!
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Spinach muffin with a bite taken out.
4.97 from 160 votes

Moist Spinach Muffins

These healthy spinach muffins with banana are fluffy and moist in texture and packed with nutrition. They are perfect for babies and kids.
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Three muffins stacked on top of each other with the top one sliced in half.
4.98 from 42 votes

Healthy Pumpkin Banana Muffins

These healthy pumpkin banana muffins are super moist and have the perfect balance of natural sweetness and warm fall flavors
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beetroot dip in a large white bowl with a toddler's hand dipping broccoli
5 from 4 votes

Beetroot Dip with chickpeas

4 nutritious ingredients, a food processor/blender, and dippers are all you need for this smooth, creamy, and vibrant beetroot dip for babies and toddlers!
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a big plate of tofu veggie scramble with toasted bagel and cream cheese spread
5 from 10 votes

Tofu Veggie Scramble

Vegetarian breakfast of champions – tofu veggie scramble! It's a hearty and delicious plant-based alternative to scrambled eggs that your family can enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
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Six variations of overnight quinoa in mason jars.
5 from 12 votes

Overnight Quinoa Oats

Here’s everything you need to know to make healthy and delicious overnight quinoa oats. It’s the perfect make-ahead breakfast.
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three stacked egg free carrot lentil bars
No ratings yet

Egg-Free Carrot Lentil Bars

A close up shot of pasta with broccoli and carrots.
5 from 14 votes

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Thirty minutes or less is all it takes to make this creamy broccoli pesto pasta. You can also save this bright, flavorful green pesto to enjoy with sandwiches, vegetables, salads, and so much more!
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cooked salmon quiche in a white oval plate with a toddler hand
4.99 from 85 votes

Mini crustless quiche

Packed with protein and vegetables, this mini crustless quiche is so easy to make! Enjoy as a make-ahead breakfast, snack, or pack for lunch boxes.
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a close up shot of three stacked lentil muffins with the top one sliced in half
5 from 39 votes

Mexican Lentil Muffins

Looking for a healthy savory vegetable muffin for kids? These Mexican lentil muffins are moist and packed with essential nutrients that babies and toddlers need.
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Lunch or Dinner Ideas with Iron

a close up shot of the porridge for babies in a brown bowl with a spoon
4.98 from 47 votes

rice porridge for babies

Super easy to make, this beef and vegetable rice porridge for babies is easy-to-digest, nutritious, and suitable for 6 months and up.
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Six meatballs on a wooden board with toddler grabbing one.
5 from 36 votes

Healthy Baby Meatballs

These baby meatballs are made with just 5 simple ingredients and are egg free and dairy free. Tender and flavorful, these are perfect for baby led weaning, toddlers, and the whole family.
View Recipe
5 from 28 votes

Baked Quinoa and Mushroom Beef Meatballs

baked meatballs made with ground beef, mushroom, and quinoa. It's the ultimate comfort food that can be enjoyed as is or with pasta, vegetables, salads
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a close up shot of sliced steam roasted chicken
5 from 4 votes

How to Cook Chicken for Babies

Introduce chicken to your baby with confidence with these cooking tips and recipes! Whether you are doing purees, baby led weaning, or both, chicken is a wonderful first food, loaded with iron.
View Recipe
Sliced roasted turkey breast with vegetables and fresh sage.
5 from 2 votes

How to Roast a Turkey Breast

Learn how to roast a turkey breast perfectly for a holiday meal or everyday dinner. Crispy golden brown skin, juicy and flavorful, it's a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
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Baked turkey meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
5 from 110 votes

Turkey Meatballs with rice

These oven baked kid-friendly turkey and rice meatballs are the perfect iron-rich finger food for your baby, children of all ages, and adults!
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overhead shot of cooked turkey meatballs on a blue plate with a side of tahini and lemon slice
5 from 16 votes

Kid-friendly Turkey Beet Meatballs

These oven-baked turkey beet meatballs are quick and easy to prepare, healthy, and most importantly baby and toddler approved!
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six cooked mini Shepherd's PIe Muffins on a large white plate with a toddler hand grabbing one
5 from 10 votes

Mini Shepherd’s Pie Muffins

A quick and easy, baby and kid-friendly twist on an Irish classic comfort food, these mini shepherd pie muffins are filled with beef, vegetables and topped with creamy mashed potatoes
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steak fajitas served family-style with an assortment of toppings and toddler, baby, and adult's plate with tortilla.
5 from 2 votes

Pressure Cooker Steak Fajitas

Super juicy and flavorful, this pressure cooker steak fajitas recipe for babies and kids is perfect for busy weeknights.
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Overhead shot of scooped lasagna.
5 from 20 votes

Skillet Cabbage Lasagna

This easy cabbage lasagna serves as delicious and unique alternative to traditional noodle-based lasagna, and the best part is that it can be prepared entirely in a skillet.
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finished baby friendly Korean bulgogi in a large skillet with an orange spatula
4.97 from 28 votes

Baby-Friendly Korean Bulgogi

This baby-friendly Korean bulgogi is easy to make and perfect for your baby, toddler, and family! If you’re looking for a baby led weaning recipe and healthy kid friendly meal on a budget, make this today!
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A close up shot of cooked bolognese with a wooden spoon.
5 from 29 votes

Easy Bolognese with Vegetables

This kid-friendly veggie-loaded meat sauce with ground beef and medley of vegetables is hearty, filling, and nutritious! 
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a close up shot of chicken orange sesame chicken
5 from 4 votes

Orange Sesame Chicken with Vegetables

a healthy Asian chicken recipe that’s low in sodium, this skillet orange sesame chicken with vegetables is perfect for babies and the family.
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cooked Chinese chicken mushroom in a large skillet with a spatula
5 from 10 votes

Low-Sodium Moo Goo Gai Pan

Chinese mushroom chicken stir-fry dish loaded with vegetables! This version is made baby and toddler-friendly with less sodium but plenty flavorful for the entire family to enjoy!
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vegetable beef soup served in a white spoon with a spoon and a side of buttered toast
5 from 13 votes

Vegetable Beef Soup with Cabbage

This vegetable beef soup with cabbage is a healthy comfort meal and makes for a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your baby or kid’s diet.
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Cooked pasta in a large dutch oven with fresh parsley and a large orange spatula
5 from 97 votes

Homemade Hamburger Helper

This homemade hamburger helper is the perfect meal that the whole family can enjoy. Made with ground beef, veggies, and pantry staples, it is oh so hearty, comforting, and guaranteed to be on your table in 30 minutes or less!
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ground beef and broccoli quinoa in a large blue skillet with a small amount scooped onto an orange spatula
5 from 13 votes

Healthy Korean Beef and Broccoli Quinoa

If you're in search of an easy, healthy weeknight meal, this Korean ground beef and broccoli quinoa is for you! It tastes like bulgogi and this one pot meal is also baby and toddler-friendly! 
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cooked chicken, carrots, potatoes with green onion inside an instant pot
4.86 from 71 votes

Instant Pot Korean Chicken and Potatoes

If you're in need of a quick and easy weeknight family meal, here's an Instant Pot Korean chicken and potatoes recipe that everyone, including babies, will enjoy!
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cooked sweet and sour meatballs with vegetables and farro in a white bowl
5 from 8 votes

Healthy Sweet and Sour Meatball Stir-Fry

A healthy, Asian family-friendly meal that you can get on the table in 30 minutes or less! This easy one-pot sweet and sour meatball stir-fry is baby and kid-friendly!
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A close up shot of baked shells with fresh basil.
5 from 10 votes

Easy Stuffed Shells with Meat

These stuffed shells with ground beef and vegetables are a hearty make ahead dinner or freezer meal for the whole family to enjoy!
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5 from 7 votes

Low Sodium Baked Spaghetti Pie

Baked spaghetti pie with ricotta that's healthy and easy to whip up. It's the perfect comfort food recipe for the entire family!
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peanut chicken and broccoli served with barley on a blue plate with a a fork
4.85 from 13 votes

Instant Pot Peanut Chicken and Broccoli

Another EASY, 30 minute weeknight meal you can enjoy with your baby and kids! This Instant pot chicken and broccoli is also a great way to continue exposing your child to one of the top food allergens, peanuts.
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a close up shot of chicken quinoa spinach casserole.
4.99 from 76 votes

Chicken Spinach Quinoa Casserole

A baby and kid-friendly comfort meal you don't want to miss! This chicken spinach quinoa casserole with black beans is super easy to make and loaded with iron and protein.
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Vegetarian Iron Rich Recipes

a close up shot of black beans cooked on the stove.
5 from 7 votes

Cooking Beans for Babies (3 Methods)

Beans are terrific first foods for babies! Here are three methods for cooking dried beans.
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a small portion of pasta with blended sauce in a white bowl on the left and pasta with chunky sauce on the right with a toddler's hands grabbing the bowl
5 from 99 votes

Iron-rich baby pasta

A baby pasta recipe that is loaded with iron and vegetables!
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A close up shot of pureed carrot lentil soup with yogurt fresh parsley and crusty bread slice.
4.96 from 25 votes

Carrot and Lentil Soup

This carrot and lentil soup tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen but only takes 30 minutes to make! It's hearty, nutritious, and super flavorful.
View Recipe
a bowl of slow cooker chickpea lentil chili with diced avocado and cilantro
5 from 6 votes

Slow Cooker Lentil Chili with Chickpeas

Thick and hearty, this vegetarian slow cooker chickpea lentil chili is sure to keep your baby and child happy and nourished. It's also an incredibly iron-rich meal!
View Recipe
a close up shot of teriyaki glazed salmon flaked with a fork with broccoli on the side
5 from 4 votes

Teriyaki glazed salmon

If you’re looking for a quick and easy salmon recipe for your baby and the entire family, look no further than this teriyaki glazed salmon.
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a close up shot of cooked lasagna in the baking pan with fresh basil.
5 from 6 votes

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Lasagna with Quinoa

This vegetarian sweet potato lasagna with quinoa requires no boiling of noodles and assembly couldn't be easier!
View Recipe
baked tofu strips with oregano, curry powder, and cumin lined on a baking sheet.
5 from 6 votes

How to Cook Tofu for Baby Led Weaning

Introduce tofu to your baby with confidence with these cooking tips and recipes! Whether you are doing purees, baby led weaning, or both, tofu is an amazing first food.
View Recipe
Korean tofu soup in a claypot with a soup
5 from 29 votes

Non-Spicy Korean Tofu Soup

This non-spicy Korean tofu soup, or sundubu jjigae, is warm and comforting, and perfect for the entire family to enjoy, especially babies and toddlers.
View Recipe
an overhead shot of the cooked vegan tomato pasta in a black pan with cashews in the background
5 from 6 votes

Vegan Creamy Tomato Pasta

Made with simple pantry ingredients, this vegan creamy tomato pasta is perfect for babies and kids with a dairy allergy. It is super versatile and easy to make!
View Recipe
A close up look at the Mexican lentils in a skillet
4.99 from 50 votes

One Pot Mexican Lentils

Here's a super easy, comforting, and nutritious One pot Mexican lentils recipe for the whole family! Made with pantry staples like lentils, black beans, frozen corn, and sweet potatoes, this hearty vegetarian meal is sure to become your next go-to busy weeknight meal.
View Recipe
a close up shot of cooked shrimp tofu cakes on parchment paper
4.97 from 59 votes

Easy baked shrimp cakes

Super juicy and tender, these baked Asian shrimp cakes are baby and kid-friendly! Of course, the adults can enjoy them too.
View Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Easy Salmon Bean Salad

This mayo-free, refreshing yet hearty salmon bean salad couldn’t be easier to make! You can serve with crackers, vegetables, bread, salad, cheese, or whatever you fancy!
View Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Eggplant Lasagna Roll-Ups

This easy, gluten-free baked eggplant lasagna roll ups with meat is the perfect , healthy comfort food that the entire family will enjoy!
View Recipe

3 Month Meal Plan for Babies

All the images of baby plates you see in this post are exactly what I served my daughter during our first three months of starting solids.

From speaking to hundreds of parents and caregivers, it was clear that the greatest challenge is how to ensure their baby is getting optimal nutrition while trying to juggle everything and get through the day.

It can feel so overwhelming and frustrating. And that’s why I created my 3 month program – Baby Led Feeding Journey.

I’m here to hand you a complete roadmap. Everything all in one place.

There’s SO much this program offers but don’t take my word for it. You can find out more here as well as hear from other moms who’ve gone through it.

baby led feeding journey program cover

Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?

Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen

Additional Feeding Resources

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi! Love this post and all the info! Thank you 😊 Where can I find the chicken lentil spinach fingers recipe?

    1. I’m so happy to hear that it was helpful! Oh there’s no real recipe but here’s how to make it just combine cooked lentils with chopped chicken and spinach and shape into fingers with your hand. Check out this post on lentils for babies to learn how to cook lentils perfectly.

  2. This couldn’t have come across my inbox at a better time! As a mama who battles iron-deficiency anemia, I love to incorporate more meals and recipes rich in iron for myself and two toddlers. But our variety is not perfect so I found this incredibly helpful!

    1. Ooh! Just in time! Love hearing that. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or recipe requests 😉

  3. Hi, do you have the recipe for the tofu black bean oatmeal ball or any of the tofu balls? Would love to try to make it for my 10 month daughter. Looked everywhere on your page but couldn’t find recipe.

    Thanks!

    1. HI so what I did was combine the leftover tofu veggie scramble with cooked oatmeal and shape into balls!